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As technology accelerates the customer online order experience, the final leg, or 'last mile' expectation of efficient and scheduled on-time delivery has become one of the most defining measures of customer service. This in turn has triggered enormous study and investment into contactless (autonomous) delivery, which will considerably alter the competitive landscape of retailers and food/meal-kit outlets.
Broll Property Intel (research division of Broll Property Group) latest report, Navigating the New Normal - Contactless Deliveries, reveals how this market has skyrocketed with the impacts of COVID-19, highlighting the value of contactless delivery systems.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, notes the Broll report, shopping online was a slowly growing trend in South Africa, with online sales accounting for some 1.4% of national retail sales, as indicated by World Wide Worx, an independent technology market research organisation. Shopping online and having products delivered to one's home or workplace was mainly for the convenience of time-strapped individuals who didn't necessarily have to try a product out before purchasing it.
Contactless delivery was in effect prior to the pandemic, but only a handful of third-party service providers had the required infrastructure. One such pioneer is Pargo, a southern African logistics company boasting over 2,500 collection points. Instead of door-to-door deliveries, Pargo enables customers to choose where they can have their parcels delivered to in order for them to simply collect in-person from a predetermined partner pick-up point, like Clicks, The Body Shop or selected Caltex petrol stations, in a customer's vicinity.
Click and collect is yet another system where customers can shop online and go in-store to collect their purchases, limiting their exposure time in shopping malls and. Many stores, especially fast food outlets, now have designated 'click and collect' stations so that customers can access their food order without needing to interact with staff. This system, confirms the Broll Property Intel report, is indicative of just how innovative the logistics and retail sectors have had to become since the start of 2020.
However, says the report, it is really only since national lockdown that South Africans become more interested in contactless deliveries. Interestingly it is noted that online searches for contactless deliveries has peaked in the fourth week of every month since March, likely because people want their goods delivered in the safest most contactless manner.
One of the contactless leaders during this time, and highlighted in the Broll Research Intel report, has been The Courier Guy, with its Pudo (pick up/drop off) initiative. Pudo, a paperless process that is managed on a mobile app that requires zero human interaction, has simplified the process of package couriering and redefined last-leg logistics, with its provision of sleek collection lockers that boast video surveillance, anti-break locks, and innovative package detection technology.
Looking ahead, the Broll report reveals that drones and other logistics technologies are going to play an unimaginably important role in keeping people safe within all levels of the supply chain. With the rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, drones can be programmed to autonomously deliver and collect parcels anywhere in the world, and to near pinpoint accuracy.
The report provides some examples. In Seoul, drones fitted with LED lights have been collectively used to light the night sky with motivational messages of hope during the pandemic. In Pakistan, drones are used to protect agricultural crops from locusts and other harmful pests. Arguably the drone's most noble ability is in the health sector, such as in Ghana where medical supply companies are using the technology to deliver critical medications to otherwise inaccessible rural communities.
Drone retail deliveries are a reality for Americans making use of Amazon's 'Scout' delivery service. The fully-electronic system has been so successful that Amazon is rapidly deploying overhead delivery robots across the United States. UPS, leading global logistics company with a firm footprint in South Africa, is also embracing drone-based contactless delivery with its growing fleet of autonomous Wingcopter parcel delivery drones.
Other topics discussed in the Broll Intel report include: the rising demand for same-day delivery, looking at the popularity of Checkers' Sixty60 initiative before and after lockdown, and costs of some of the contactless delivery services currently in operation. To download the report, go to https://www.broll.com/publications/